tv Sanjay Gupta MD CNN February 19, 2012 7:30am-8:00am EST
sound epidemic. it's the abuse of legal prescription drugs. our dr. sanjay gupta takes a look, a close look at problems in this country, and it leads to one death every 19 minutes. that's a startling statistic. dr. sanjay gupta m.d. starts right now. good morning. thanks for being with us. one thing you may know about me if you watch this program, i love gadgets. but even i would say the amount of technology in our lives can sometimes be overwhelming. so i've been on the hunt for technology that can truly improve our health and maybe make it easier to get healthy and to say that way. for example, something like this. this is a blood pressure cuff. they say you should have one in your home. this one actually links up to your iphone and possibly communicates with your doctor as well. i'm going to demonstrate it in a little bit. and i'm going to hit on something a little bit touchy in our world. remember when chef paula deen announced she had diabetes. a lot of people voicing their
opinion, i told you so. that's what you get for cooking such incredibly rich food. we wish paula deen the best. we love her. i want to take another approach. sam talbot, a finalist on the show "top chef," has had diabetes for most of his life. it's taught him important lessons about eating healthy. we're going to try to share them with you today. first, like a lot of people, i was pretty shocked to get the news about whitney houston dying just before the grammys. the coroner says it's going to be weeks before we know the cause of death. but given her drug abuse, people are asking tough questions. investigators did find prescription drugs in the hotel room where houston died. but the coroner told us something important. listen to this. "nothing out of the ordinary was found as long as houston was taking the medication as prescribed." as prescribed, that's a key point. as a doctor, i want to dovetail on that by giving you this shocking statistic. 1 in 20 people over the age of
12 take prescription medications in a way that's not prescribed. another key point. most of them are not addicts. they're just careless or maybe didn't heed the warnings they were told. they take too much, take it in the wrong way, or combine medications with something else. if you do that, ait's easy to make a catastrophic mistake. and every 19 minutes a person dies from prescription drugs. this goes far beyond to what may or may not have happened to whitney houston. i want to be clear on that. i want to talk about the dangers that everyone faces at one point or another. joining me from new york is the chief of addiction psychiatry at st. luke's and roosevelt hospitals in new york city. thanks for joining us. i imagine, doctor, you like everyone else has paid attention to the story of what happened with whitney houston. i did want to make a couple of points. i want to ask you about them. even legitimately prescribed medications can kill in combination with other drugs and sometimes alcohol. but even just small amounts of
alcohol. i don't think a lot of people understand that. they're told, look, don't drink with these medications, but this idea that in combination there's so much worse. can you explain what happens? why is it so much worse? what happens to the brain? >> what happens to the brain is something that can be quite scary, actually. and that is the synergy, the synergistic effect. synergy simply means the total effect can be much, much bigger than the sum of the parts. so if you just drink alcohol, you have some kind of effect. or if you just take, let's say, valium or xanax or one of those medications, you have another effect. if you take some painkillers, some opoid painkillers, you have some other effect. but if you combine the three, it's not simply additive. it's one plus one plus one equals three. it's one plus one plus one equals five or six.
that's what gets a lot of people in trouble. >> can you put this in a little bit of context. even as we've been talking about this, people come up to me and say, listen, i hear what you say about synergy. i take sleeping pills. i might have something to drink at night before i go to bed. to be clear, that's a problem. we're not talking to say you need a large consumption of these medications to cause a potential ka tcatastrophe. is that right? >> right. so we do have the synergistic problem, which is a very serious one, and we superimpose on that one the tolerance problem, that a lot of these medications can result in physiological dependence, meaning that after a while, they don't have the same punch, the same kind of effect that they used to have. so you start adding a little bit, and you go up on the dose a little bit. sometimes totally within the recommendations of your physician, but you go up and up and up, and then you may reach a breaking point where the side effects, meaning in this case the respiratory depression or any other kind of physiological
troubles they can give you gets out of control, and you may end up dying. >> and one of the areas of the brain that i think is affected is the hypothalamus. that's the part of the brain that's responsible for a lot of things we don't think about, regulating our heart rate or heartbeat, but also our drive to breathe. when you say depressing that, i think that that's what you're referring to. is there a particularly dangerous combination, something that surprises you both in terms of what the medications are and how little can cause a problem. >> some of the opoids, some of the painkillers have been notoriously indicated in overdose death. sometimes we think that pain pills cannot possibly be as dangerous as heroin, and yet they're very, very similar drugs and can very easily kill you. so that's what we see. we see some people taking oxycontin or vicodin and say, hey, the dentist gave me this.
how can we possibly be dangerous? and yet when taken in combination with alcohol or some other drugs or sometimes even by itself can get you in trouble. >> yeah, well, you know, i appreciate that point. look, the status quo is not acceptable. if the message needs to be clearer and it needs to be louder and it needs to be -- you don't want to be alarmist. i think it's very important for doctors to indicate this to their patients, which, again, i appreciate that you do and i try to do as well. maybe we'll have you back on as well. doctor, we appreciate your time. coming up, i'm going to take some time to show you my favorite gadgets. i am the gadget guy around here, but these could potential put you on the road to getting healthy. the first technology of its kind...
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[clucking] [ding] [clucking] announcer: separate raw meats from other foods by using different cutting boards. 3,000 americans will die from food poisoning this year. keep your family safer. check your steps at foodsafety.gov. welcome back to "sgmd." we've reported on shortages of cancer drugs, and this week we got a bad one. hospitals warned they only have a limited supply of methotrexate. this is a medication used in childhood leukemia. a lot of lives are at stake here. but kathleen sebelius said the fda has helped find additional suppliers to keep up production.
>> it's resolved because of what we can do at the fda is accelerate alternatives. >> that's welcome news, of course, but the government accountability office tells us that the overall trend of more and more of these shortages, again, shortages we've been talking about, are likely to continue. remember these are critically important medications. another cancer drug also in the news this week, avastin. this week the fda said recent shipments to medical practices were, in fact, fake avastin, they were counterfeit. the good news is it's pretty easy to spot the difference. take a look at this. the packaging in specific, on your left, real avastin. that's produced by genentech. and the packaging is in english. the fake is on your right, it says it's produced by roche, and the writing is in french. the fda is checking into this and don't know whether any patients got the fake version. also this week, some news i'm interested in about stem
cells. pretty remarkable results from a clinical trial i first reported on in november. now the full paper is out. we had had a chance to look at it. doctors used a threaded catheter to take stem cells from each patient, grow more of those cells in a petri dish and reinject them a few weeks later. the result of all that, more healthy heart muscle and 50% less scar tissue. we'll keep an eye on that. regrowing heart muscle is amazing technology but not something you want to try at home obviously. i do want to show you some technology that could be in your home. gadgets that could actually help you get healthy and possibly stay healthy. our veteran medical producer, another resident gadget guy, matt sloan, here to help us out. you went to the consumer electronics show, which is pretty fun, i hear. >> it was unbelievable. >> the gadgets are pretty interesting. some people say technology can make it tougher because people are parked in front of screens. you found things that are quite the opposite. this scale, to start out with,
there's a lot of scales that measure your weight and your body mass index. what's different about this one? >> this one will sync with your home wi-fi index and send the data, your body mass index, it will send it to popular weight loss apps. it makes it easier to keep track of. it it looks pretty and looks like a regular home scale to people who don't know any better. >> accountability. and one of the apps is called lose it. >> it's a free app. we've got it here on the ipad. this is actually my food that i've eaten today. so you can see i have 1,805 calories for the day. i've eaten 1,523. i have 282 left. you can go in and search for the food you've eaten out of the library of 400,000 foods. something i like about this, you can add a snack here. if you have a food, you just hit scan bar code, scan it right there, and it adds it, 180 calories. >> i love that. >> add it to your app. >> and you get a better idea of
how you're doing overall. >> and it will give you a good report. you can do it by the day or by the week. >> you're using this app. >> i am. i've lost 12 pounds using this app. >> not increasing exercise or anything like that. >> just paying attention to my calories. >> why do you think it works so well for snu >> just helps me be accountable. i didn't know how many calories i was eating on a daily basis. even if i'm eating badly, even if i go over, it tells me what i've eaten. >> just that psychology of being held accountable. another big deal -- and as i've told you, matt, i have a history of heart disease in my family. blood pressure is something a lot of people know to get checked in the doctor's office. it's a silent problem. you may not have any symptoms. this is a new blood pressure cuff. tell us about this. >> two-thirds of americans are overweight or obese. it's a topic that you and i cover together. as the connected generation starts to develop high blood pressure, this is a really cool tool. you plug this little cuff here into your ipad or any tablet
device. hit a couple of buttons, and then hit -- obviously, put it on somebody's arm. >> butt it on your arm like a regular blood pressure cuff. and this is acting as the blood pressure machine. it's an app that does this. >> and it will keep track of them for months at a time, and you can send it to your doctor. >> give me quick idea on costs of these things. >> $160 for the scale. $130 for the blood pressure cuff. of course, the app is free. >> matt, thanks a lot. don't go anywhere. i think you're going to want to hear this as well. it's sort of an eye-popping revelation, if you will, at nasa. a medical mystery, a real one that has to be solved if we're ever going to keep astronauts in space.
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we are back with "sgmd." something you may have heard about recently, the possibility of us going to mars. the united states is spending $18 billion over the next five years to try to develop a rocket that could take astronauts to the red planet. something i've always been curious about, what does a trip like that really do to people's bodies? cnn's very own john zarrella got this exclusive opportunity to sit in on an eye exam given to one nasa astronaut, who like many has come back from long endurance flight missions and had changes to his vision. take a look. >> reporter: astronaut mike barrett undergoes an eye exam, no big deal, right? >> ekeag. >> reporter: unlike your eyes or mine, the future of deep space flight could be riding, literally, on astronaut eye sight. >> i would say this is our top priority at the moment in terms of establishing countermeasures for long duration space flight. this has all of our attention.
>> reporter: why? you see barrett is one of ten astronauts who have returned from long space station missions with changes to hr eyesight, sometimes permanent and not at all good. the cause, a mystery. >> what we're seeing is structural changes to the ret a retina. we're seeing wrinkles or folds on a microscopic level to these areas. >> reporter: as this image shows, the back of mike's eye has flattened out. >> you see the farsighted shift. the cause appears to be the globe flattening. >> reporter: in some cases, back on earth, the eyes correct themselves, but not barrett's. >> i have an eagle eye at long distance, but i have close up specs. >> reporter: doctors say the problem has only occurred in male astronauts. it's possibly from an increase in pressure inside the cranium, caused by microgravity. doctors don't know if the problem might worsen or even lead to blindness on longer flights, say to mars. over the next five years, nasa
is spending about $18 billion to develop a new big rocket, and this orrion spacecraft so send astronauts on deep space missions. if the problem isn't solved, human mars missions could be in trouble. the alternative, get get them there a lot faster. >> i'm still hopeful that in 20 years we'll have advanced propulsion capabilities that could get us there in a matter of weebs to a very few months and then a lot of these problems go away. >> doctors are intensely working with the space station crews undergoing orbit exams and using glasses called super focus. but so far there haven't been an eye-opening back throughs. >> and astronaut barratt is
joining us from the space station at nasa. let me ask you, first of all, how are your eyes now? have they stayed affected about your trip? >> well, yes, they have, pretty much. i spent 199 days in space in 2009 and landed in october of that year. the vision changes that we noticed have been pretty static since then. so, again, what it is is a far sighted shift. if you wear the right corrective lenses, it's totally functional. >> when people's pressure comes down, often times their vision improves but in their case it didn't happen. something else that was striking, it was just in men. and correct me if i'm wrong. you're a doctor, you're studying this. any idea as to why that is? >> well, you have to think of some of the obvious things, perhaps there's a hormonal protection of the vascular system. i think much of this is related
to the shifts that happen with zero gravity. and certainly the vascular system of females is influenced by higher levels of hormones that might differentiate us. another thing is, there are changes that might actually account for some of this and i'm fairly typical of an astronaut that is barrel chested and that might move the lungs against the collarbone. >> yeah, i guess the physiology is very interesting. space travel has a whole -- let me ask you -- we just have a little bit of time. how big of a deal is this? is money being spent to trying to create this rocket to go to mars. it sounds like this is no small problem if people's vision is this dramatically affected. >> right. this is a big deal. this is the most significant
finding -- physiological finding in at least ten years or more. i would emphasize that this is not new. we've probably been reflying people with this syndrome and just don't know it. i don't want to belittle this. we see increased pressure, swelling of the optic nerve, changes of the shape of the eye and a lot of these changes persist. so what's the long-term implication, we don't know. it's a big deal. >> you look healthy. i'm sorry this happened with your eyes. this is fascinating and i encourage people to think of space travel and the impact that it has on people's bodies. sir, thank you for joining us. appreciate it. >> my pleasure. still ahead, as promised, i'm going to head into the kitchen with top chef and fan favorite sam talbot. what you don't know is what happened at 12 years old changed him forever that made him the
man and the chef that is he today. stay with us. hmb to help rebuild muscle and strength naturally lost over time. [ female announcer ] ensure muscle health has revigor and protein to help protect, preserve, and promote muscle health. keeps you from getting soft. [ major nutrition ] ensure. nutrition in charge!
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started at my first job when i was 13 years old as a bus boy and then cooking pizzas at 14 and then my first professional job was when i was 15. >> naturally good at cooking? >> yes, it's one of those god-given abilities. i remember getting eggs and making scrambled eggs and all of those things that an 8-year-old doesn't necessarily pick up. >> you said your food is generally pretty healthy and how important is that for you? obviously you could make things healthier? >> i'm a person with type 1 diabetes but i'm not cooking with diabetics all the time. >> you were 12 years old? >> i was 12 years old. >> were you not feeling well? >> my mom's brother was die beat
particular. my mother saw the symptoms growing up with her brother. so one night i would use the bathroom like 15 times over the course of a ten-hour sleeping period. went to the emergency room and they checked my blood sugar and it was like 980. crazy. >> it's usually below 100. >> normally it's 80 to 120. mine was at 980. my mom burst into tears. she took me across the street and said, do this now, you'll never be able to do it again. from that moment on i was 12 and i made it a lifetime goal to never have to say that to anybody or never have to live within a certain parameter. >> how much of your life is measured by measuring your sugar. >> we all get up and take a shower. i just have a few steps more. >> you said that there are perks? >> i just get to be healthier. if you don't have anything wrong
with you, it's kind of hard to be like, i want to become health threeier. >> that's great. >> but when somebody happened to paula deen, how hard is that for a celebrity chef? >> to each their own but i think any person with a bit of notoriety that has a platform to speak on, whether it's a chef or doctor, whatever profession it is, if you're speaking from the heart, people are listening to you. >> she said she's going to make changes now in her diet. >> i hope so. certain food tastes really good going down but it's an aftermath of, oh, man. we're all sort of vying for that same goal which is keep raising the bar of education. >> there you go. >> that's going to wrap us up for